Quartz grain features in modern glacial and proglacial environments: A microscopic study from the Russell Glacier, southwest Greenland

Edyta Kalinska-Nartiša, Kristaps Lamsters, Janis Karušs, Maris Krievans, Agnis Rečs, Raimonds Meija

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


It is assumed that close to the margins of ice-sheets, glacial, fluvial and aeolian processes overlap, and combined with weathering processes, produce numerous sediments, in which quartz is a common mineral. Quartz grains, if available, may serve as a powerful tool in determining the depositional history, transportation mode and postdepositional processes. However, quartz grain studies in some modern glacial areas are still sparse. In this study, we examine for the first time quartz grains sampled from the modern glacial and proglacial environments of the Russell Glacier, southwest Greenland in binocular microscope and scanning electron microscope, to analyze their shape, character of surface and microtextures. We debate whether the investigated quartz grains reveal glacial characteristics and to what extent they carry a signal of another transportation and sedimentary processes. Although glacial fracturing and abrasion occur in grain suites, most mechanical origin features are not of a high frequency or freshness, potentially suggesting a reduced shear stress in the glacier from its limited thickness and influence of the pressurized water at the ice-bed. In contrast, the signal that originates from the fluvial environment is much stronger derived by numerous aqueous-induced features present on quartz grain surfaces. Aeolian-induced microtextures on grain surfaces increase among the samples the closest to the ice margin, which may be due to enhanced aeolian activity, but are practically absent in sediments taken from the small scale aeolian landforms. In contrast, aeolian grains have been found in the bigger-size (1.0-2.0 mm) investigated fraction. These grains gained the strongest aeolian abrasion, possibly due to changes in transportation mode.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-289
Number of pages25
JournalPolish Polar Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Arctic
  • Greenland
  • modern glacial environment
  • quartz grains
  • scanning electron microscopy

Field of Science*

  • 1.5 Earth and related Environmental sciences

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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